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date: 30 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay explores American melodrama with a political twist. It suggests that melodrama is only a literary or dramatic genre but a cultural style that suffused antebellum American life and discusses the limits of reading politics in antebellum melodrama. It also argues against Alexis de Tocqueville’s observations and commentaries about American drama and suggests that he erred in some of his judgments about antebellum theatre and melodrama and sometimes failed to discern trends that would define the American stage. This essay also argues that Edwin Forrest’s prize plays The Gladiator and Metamora, or, The Last of the Wampanoags demonstrate the complexities of appealing to antebellum patriotism.

Keywords: American melodrama, antebellum America, cultural style, Alexis de Tocqueville, politics, Edwin Forrest, The Gladiator, Metamora, or, The Last of the Wampanoags

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